Ben has written an eloquent, provocative critical reflection on the perception and power of the March for Life. The post has generated a considerable discussion.
Ben is critical of what he perceives to be excessive Catholic symbolism at the event; he makes the claim that in order for the March for Life to be victorious in the battle against abortion, the March will have to reduce its Christian symbolism and message in order to appeal to larger segments of the pro-life population and be more than a “rite of passage for Catholic teenagers.” I’d like to bring that discussion back to the front.
First, I am sympathetic to Ben’s claim of the necessity of reducing the blatant Christian (particularly Catholic) symbolism of the March for Life. While public religiosity is welcome—especially by traditionalists and conservatives—it seems that the religious expressions that color and dominate the March for Life are inconsistent with the concrete and historical tradition set forth by the Framers.
Second, I think that at best the March is an ideological—political—act. It may be, as Ben observes, merely a “rite of passage”; but more to the point, I think it is a political movement through and through. It is uncertain to me the extent to which religion acts as a catalyst for these marchers, causing them to travel to DC and participate in this protest parade year after year; I suspect that it cannot be separated from their ideological fervor.
If that is the case, then what is the use of increasing the size of the tent by diluting the religiosity of the March? I don’t think it is very useful, because while the religious symbolism may shrink, the ideological fervor remains. And, perhaps that is where the problem sits. In Ben’s post, the commenter “J” wrote that it is unlikely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned and that abortion will become illegal. But he also asked us to consider whether or not, if the abortion dilemma were returned to the states, the March for Life would survive (or at least remain as vibrant as it is now). I wonder, in response, if such things even matter. Won’t the march for life just carry on, re-defining itself (retaining its ideological bent) in order to find the next political cause to place in its sights? It makes me wonder whether or not the March for Life is useful at all. If the best we can say is that it is Catholic (as seems to be a consensus among those who participated in the discussion), and the worst is that it is in some fundamental way an ideological (read: political) phenomenon, then for whom does it speak, to whom does it speak, and who actually listens? Perhaps most importantly: are pro-lifers just fooling themselves if they participate?